Rating: 4 out of 5
In Joseph D’Lacey’s eco-horror novel Garbage Man, the Earth has had enough of all the waste humanity is dumping. An unusual thunderstorm awakens a handful of little garbage creatures that seem to want to eat humans. Only one of them survives. Mason Brand, who is dedicated to serving Mother Earth, believes the creature represents the face of things to come, and hides and feeds it. It uses pieces of garbage from the nearby landfill to rebuild and redesign itself constantly, but it also needs flesh and blood. At first small animals, and then it moves on to bigger prey. This may just be the beginning of the end of humanity.
In many ways this is a monster horror story, with a massive “fecalith” made of garbage, and its helpers. There’s an interesting coterie of local characters. There’s the married couple who are each having an affair. There’s the stoner gamer guy who starts taking control of his life after he meets an interesting goth chick. There’s a sister-and-brother, one of whom wants to get the hell out of the town they’ve grown up with, and the other of whom is having sex with a married woman twice his age. There’s the nosy woman next door, except dialed up to 11.
My favorite detail is that the creatures use flesh and blood to help them grow, but they self-design using garbage. This first becomes evident when Mason’s critter decides it wants to be bipedal, like Mason. It’s fascinating to watch that happen.
It was a little weird that the critters won’t cross an entirely man-determined boundary (the county line) at one point. Why would they let that define them? Why would they even notice it? Tamsin’s dreams were also incredibly bizarre. (See spoiler below.)
Content note: menstrual blood, brief details of a man who is a pedophile, baby harm, slurs, animal death, masturbation, misogynistic and bigoted characters. Also, since abortions seem to be depicted as being like other forms of dumping trash, and the whole book is basically an anti-trash story, this book comes off as anti-abortion.
SPOILER WARNING: Tamsin keeps dreaming about a baby who crawls through all sorts of dangerous situations, ending up with glass and knives and such impaling him. I believe we’re meant to realize that the fetus she aborted is at the center of the fecalith. I wouldn’t swear to that, but it seems likely.